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Gaming Initiative Donations Growing

Nevada casinos' contributions to fight measure that would allow continued operation of American Indian gambling sites bring campaign funds to nearly $60 million. Tribes, however, have outspent opponents by about 2 to 1.

October 06, 1998|TOM GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Campaign contributions on the hotly contested Proposition 5, the Indian gaming initiative, have reached nearly $60 million with the infusion of Nevada casino money to combat massive spending by American Indian tribes, according to finance disclosures filed Monday with the secretary of state's office.

The reports show that Proposition 5 is narrowing in on California's all-time election spending record--$84 million--spent on several insurance reform measures on the 1988 ballot.

Monday's figures show that Indian tribes have outspent their Nevada opponents by about a 2-1 margin--but with the opposition to Proposition 5 furiously seeking to catch up through major donations from three large Las Vegas gambling interests.

During the most recent reporting period--from July 1 through Sept. 30--opponents to Proposition 5 raised about $14.5 million, while tribes favoring the casino measure raised about $16.4 million.

For the entire campaign, Indian tribes pushing for Proposition 5 have raised about $42.7 million and spent $36 million, through Wednesday. About $8 million of that was spent last spring, when the tribes qualified the measure for the Nov. 3 ballot with an unprecedented petition gathering campaign that included extensive television commercials and direct mail.

The Yes on 5 side had about $6.7 million in unspent reserves as of Wednesday. In contrast, opponents to Proposition 5 have raised a total of $15.5 million to date--most from Nevada-connected businesses--and have spent $17.1 million, putting them more than $1 million in the red at the end of the reporting period. All but about $1 million of the contributions was raised since July 1.

The largest contributors to the No on 5 campaign during the most recent reporting period were the Hilton Hotels Corp., Circus Circus Enterprises Inc. and Mirage Resorts Inc. Each contributed about $4.3 million to defeat the initiative, which would provide for the continuation of existing Indian casino operations in the state.

The largest donors in support of Proposition 5 are the San Manuel (about $21 million in total), Morongo ($9.5 million), Viejas ($5.1 million), Pechanga ($3.4 million) and Agua Caliente (about $1 million) tribes.

Steven Glazer, spokesman for the Yes on 5 campaign, defended the level of spending by casino-operating tribes doing battle against Las Vegas money.

"The Nevada casinos are spending millions to protect their billion-dollar profits while the Indians are defending their very own economic survival that has given them jobs, reduced welfare and provided self-reliance," Glazer said. "The Indians will have to give everything they have, and more, if they hope to defend their rights to dignity, self-reliance and economic opportunity."

Answered Gina Stassi, spokeswoman for the No on 5 campaign: "The facts are these: The other side has more than doubled what we have spent.

"Let's face it," she said. "It's gambling money against gambling money. It's time to start focusing on the real issue: What is in the initiative, which is flawed and bad for California?"

She said that although the opposition campaign is financed almost totally by Nevada interests, "you have to look at our coalition list, which is very broad and diverse. These are people who are vehemently opposed to Proposition 5, but don't have the financial resources to fight it."

The anti-5 coalition includes many elected officials, law enforcement authorities, businesses and unions.

Political observers have long expected the battle over Proposition 5 to set a record for spending on any political campaign in California history. Most of the money to date has been spent on television commercials that have blanketed the state's airwaves.

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